Daily Blog #301
Calorie counting seems like a pretty good way to lose weight, right? I mean it’s a pretty easy concept to understand, and one that basically anybody can do. Due to tools like food scales to nutrition labels, all the way to various apps on those little handheld devices that are sitting in our pockets, calorie counting has never been easier to do. But what happens when it becomes your life and you can’t quit counting calories?
Every time that I see someone tracking their food on MyFitnessPal or even talk about tracking calories, red danger signs start to flood my mind. Not because calorie counting is something that I would never do, but rather because it is something that I have spent too many years practicing. In fact, it’s something that I still struggle with.
Why you should quit counting calories.
Imagine practicing something that completely sucks all of the energy out of your soul, something that is incredibly addictive, something that makes it near impossible to enjoy being around food, and something that takes so much energy out of you that all you want to do is sleep. Doesn’t sound fun, does it? Well, that something is calorie counting.
Sure, if you are trying to lose weight, then it is important to understand the concept that you need to be in a caloric deficit. But this doesn’t mean that you need to spend your time tracking calories. There are many more efficient, more humane, natural, and less grueling ways to lose weight if that’s something that you should even be doing.
Alternatives to calorie counting.
While some may disagree with me, I believe that by tracking calories, we are taking the easy way out. We use calorie counting as a replacement for exercise. We use calorie counting as a way to still maintain a poor diet (eating the same foods, just less of). And we use calorie counting as a way to justify how healthy we are based on the amount we eat.
Want to know some better alternatives to calorie counting that won’t make you go crazy? Eating healthier foods, and eating intuitively.
Eating healthier means eating an apple instead of a donut, eating a baked potato instead of fires, or eating grilled chicken instead of deep fried. And eating intuitively means that you are eating until you are satisfied. Not an amount that will leave you feeling hungry again in an hour, but also not an amount that is going to leave you feeling full to the point where you can’t even move. I have experienced both feelings, and neither are fun to feel.
This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t enjoy life. If you want to go get a donut, go get a donut. If your sweet old grandma makes you cookies, eat a cookie. Eating is meant to be enjoyable, but this doesn’t mean that you need to eat an entire box or donuts, or the full jar of your grandma’s cookies.
Looking good without counting calories.
If you are a male, let’s say that you want to achieve that caveman or spartan looking body. A body with the popping muscles, chiseled abs, and one that nobody wants to mess with. Do you think cavemen or ancient warriors read nutrition labels, weighed out their foods, or tracked calories on their phones? No, because none of those things existed. They relied on eating quality foods and eating until they felt satisfied.
If you are a female, maybe you want to look like Pamela Anderson from the original Baywatch. Again, in 1989 there were no household food scales or apps to tracking the number of calories that she ate. She achieved what I think to be an incredible looking body based on a healthy diet and feeling satisfied with the amount she ate.
The point is, there are many more efficient and healthier ways to lose weight than tracking calories. Our bodies rely on nutrients that we provide it, not a number that consists of many empty calories. The key to looking good is having a good diet, and exercising your body.
The lies of nutrition labels.
The nutrition labels that you and I read, do you have any idea how inaccurate they are? You might think that you are eating a sandwich that has 500 calories in it, but truthfully, that sandwich could contain many more or fewer calories.
The Food and Drug Administration gives nutrition labels a 20% margin in error for the numbers that are on it. This means that the 500 calorie sandwich that you are eating could actually contain anywhere from 400 calories to 600 calories while still falling under regulatory guidelines.
Your body is going to change.
Your body is never going to exert the same amount of calories as it did the day before. Some days you are going to burn more, and some days you are going to burn less. So while you can have a ballpark estimate of the number of calories that you should be consuming, you will never be certain of the exact number.
Let’s say for example that you need 2,500 calories to maintain your weight yesterday. If you get up from your desk one more time today, that maintenance number is going to change. The more you try to calculate the calories you need for every trip to the bathroom, every time you walk to get a cup of coffee, or the number of extra breaths that you take in a day, the more you are going to drive yourself insane.
Is this a biased view?
You bet! I am biased because I have lived with this mentality for years, and I know firsthand the crippling effects that it can have on someone’s life. Starting to count calories may be the biggest mistake of my life. While it does not play as significant of a role in my life as it once did, it is still there.
My goal is to help prevent others from feeling the pain that I have experienced because I made the mistake of starting to count calories. Food is a necessity in our lives, and our lives are meant to be enjoyed. We are worth more than a number, we are worth more than the image in the mirror, and we are worth more than the back of a food label. We are imperfect human beings that deserve the right to fuel our bodies without overlooking every single thing that we put into our mouths.
Please, from somebody who has been there, never start counting your calories. Losing or gaining weight is not worth the damage that calorie counting can cause. Treat food as the fuel that it is meant to be, and enjoy the many different tastes of life.
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